Global UAV Propulsion System Market 2022
The global UAV propulsion system market is projected to reach $10.76 billion in 2033, experiencing a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 2.33% during the forecast period of 2023-2033. This growth is mainly attributed to the increasing demand for defense and government applications, which require significant capital investment in propulsion system development. However, commercial applications are expected to witness a higher growth rate due to the rising use of UAVs in various commercial sectors, leading to increased investment in technologically advanced propulsion systems.
UAVs have undergone extensive research and development worldwide since their emergence in the early 19th century, with the military being the primary user initially. However, advancements in science and technology have enabled UAVs to incorporate various modules such as sensors, cameras, and LiDAR, making them more valuable in civil and commercial fields. Consequently, market players have focused on developing UAV propulsion systems while also striving to improve UAV production. Conventional fuel-based propulsion systems offer advantages like large payload capacity, long endurance, extended range, and quick resupply. However, environmental concerns and diminishing fossil fuel resources have posed challenges to conventional systems, driving the research and development of hybrid and all-electric UAVs, as well as solar-powered UAVs. Despite active developments, government regulations and high manufacturing costs hinder market growth.
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USD 8.4 billion in 2021
UAV Type, End User, Engine Horsepower, Engine Type, Region
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On the other hand, the expansion of the global UAV propulsion systems market is driven by the increasing adoption of advanced and efficient propulsion systems by private companies to enhance their UAV services portfolio and strengthen their customer base. Research institutions also contribute significantly to the market as they actively engage in designing, developing, and testing UAVs along with associated propulsion systems.
Given the benefits, companies continuously strive to innovate their products and collaborate with UAV manufacturers and service providers to test and develop advanced engines. The demand for UAV propulsion systems is rising across various end-users, influencing investments in different types of propulsion systems. Extended range and reliability are crucial factors shaping consumer preferences and driving the demand for engines. Additionally, technological capabilities like fuel cell technology, micro turbine propulsion, solar propulsion, and electric propulsion offer more opportunities to generate revenue. While established players dominate the UAV propulsion system market, the number of manufacturing companies in this sector is relatively low due to high investment costs and government regulations. Certification and development of a new engine can currently cost over one billion dollars, making it financially easier for drone companies to purchase certified existing engines and pay only part of the non-recurring costs. However, some start-ups are gradually gaining traction and are expected to grow in the forecast period. As more companies enter the UAV propulsion systems market, driven by the rising presence of UAV start-ups, the demand for suitable propulsion systems is expected to increase.
The primary drivers for the global UAV propulsion system market include the rising procurement of unmanned aerial vehicles by defense forces and the manufacturers’ focus on lightweight and fuel-efficient drone engines. However, notable incidents of engine failure and improper functioning, along with high investment costs and supply chain complexities, pose challenges to the market. Despite these challenges, opportunities exist in developing sustainable propulsion systems for UAVs and ongoing developments of electric VTOL aircraft.
The market is segmented based on various factors, including UAV type, end user, engine horsepower, engine type, and region.
Segmentation by UAV Type
Small UAVs – Mini UAVs and Micro UAVs
Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE)
High-Altitude Long-Endurance (HALE)
Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL)
Segmentation by End User
Segmentation by Engine Horsepower
Above 200 HP
Segmentation by Engine Type
Electrically Powered Engine
Segmentation by Region
North America – U.S. and Canada
Europe – France, Germany, U.K., and Rest-of-Europe
Asia-Pacific – China, India, Japan, and Rest-of-Asia-Pacific
Rest-of-the-World – the Middle East & Africa and Latin America
The market for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be further divided based on UAV type into small UAVs, tactical UAVs, MALE, HALE, and VTOL. Small UAVs can be further classified as mini and micro UAVs. By end user type, the market is segmented into commercial, military, and civil government.
The small UAVs segment of the market is projected to reach $5.38 billion by 2033, growing from $4.04 billion in 2023, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 2.92% during the forecast period 2023-2033. The demand in the market is driven by the increasing use of UAVs in various commercial, industrial, and tactical missions, such as intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR), search and rescue (SAR), coastal and border patrol, as well as aerial mapping, imaging, and surveying applications. The demand for electrically powered engines and Wankel engine propulsion systems, along with advancements in mini- and micro-UAVs, are expected to fuel market growth.
Small UAVs range in size from insects to medium-sized portable drones with a maximum length of 2m. They fly at low altitudes, within a range of 50km, and have a maximum gross take-off weight of less than 25kg. These small UAVs are widely used in commercial, industrial, and tactical missions, including ISTAR, SAR, coastal and border patrol, aerial mapping, imaging, and surveying applications. For example, Textron Inc launched the Aerosonde Mk. 4.8 Hybrid Quad SUAS in July 2022, which is designed for army ISR missions and combines vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities.
The commercial segment of the market is expected to hold a significant share and is estimated to reach $3.18 billion in 2023, growing to $4.21 billion by 2033, with a CAGR of around 2.83% during the forecast period 2023-2033. The demand for commercial UAV propulsion systems is driven by applications such as border patrolling, inspection and monitoring, product delivery, aerial photography and video recording, among others. While the commercial market currently dominates at regional and country levels, the military segment is also gaining momentum and is expected to grow rapidly. The emergence of sectors like precision agriculture, inspection and monitoring, surveying and mapping, and product delivery is expected to drive the demand for UAV propulsion systems. Technological advancements in commercial drones and their increasing adoption in the construction, agricultural, and logistics industries are key market drivers.
The military segment of the market is projected to grow from $3.74 billion in 2023 to $4.49 billion in 2033. Military applications include defense organizations and other military bodies that require unmanned aerial vehicles for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), combat operations, search and rescue missions, among others. Military and government users utilize small, tactical, and large UAVs depending on mission requirements.
In terms of engine horsepower, the 10-50 HP segment has the highest market penetration in 2023, followed by the 51-100 HP segment. The 10-50 HP segment is estimated to reach a value of $3.30 billion in 2032, growing at a CAGR of 2.46% during the forecast period 2023-2033. This segment is dominant due to its suitability and support for small UAVs and tactical UAVs. UAV companies are focusing on this horsepower category to enhance their UAV features for various commercial applications. The 51-100 HP segment is suitable for small tactical UAVs, MALE, and HALE UAVs, and is widely deployed in civil, commercial, and military UAVs for wildlife monitoring, geographic mapping, ISR missions, environmental law enforcement, and others. Turbine engines, piston engines, and rotary engines are notable engine types in this segment. UAV Engines Ltd, Danielson Aircraft Systems, Yamaha Motor Co Ltd., Superior Air Parts Inc., and others are prominent engine manufacturers in this segment.
The piston engine segment of the market is estimated to be valued at around $4.08 billion in 2023 and is expected to reach $5.10 billion by 2033, with a CAGR of about 2.26% during the forecast period 2023-2033. The demand for electrically powered engines, solar-powered engines, and turbine engines is also expected to increase. Most drone engines are piston-driven internal combustion engines, with two- and four-stroke engines being the most common. Two-stroke engines are simpler and lighter, offering a better power-to-weight ratio, but they emit more pollution and consume more fuel compared to four-stroke engines. The number of cylinders in an engine varies, with a higher number resulting in higher power output. These engines offer a high power-to-weight ratio and are widely used in UAVs due to their lower weight. Four-stroke engines, especially the Wankel engine, offer better fuel economy.
North America is expected to hold the highest share of 40% in the global UAV propulsion system market in 2023, with the U.S. being the major contributor. The growth in North America is driven by favorable government initiatives, advancements in drone technology, and increasing demand from various industries. The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to new use cases, particularly in law enforcement for monitoring compliance with COVID-19 measures. The U.S. is a prominent country in the market, with key players manufacturing advanced propulsion systems for military, civil government, and commercial sectors. The U.S. government’s defense spending on modernization and fleet upgrade with the latest technologies is expected to provide opportunities for UAV propulsion system manufacturers. The government has also initiated efforts to promote the localization of UAVs and associated components like propulsion systems. For instance, in February 2022, the U.S. government limited the use of Chinese-manufactured drones for government agencies and created a Blue sUAS list, which includes five U.S.-manufactured drone configurations to provide trusted and secure options for the U.S. government.
The selection of these companies was based on inputs gathered from primary experts and an analysis of factors such as company coverage, product portfolio, and market penetration. The increase in defense spending for modernizing and upgrading fleets with the latest technology in major countries including the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, India, China, Japan, and others is expected to create opportunities for manufacturers of UAV propulsion systems. Furthermore, these governments have taken initiatives to promote the local production of UAVs and their associated components, including propulsion systems. This presents lucrative opportunities for players in the global UAV propulsion system market during the forecast period.
As of 2022, established players dominate the market, accounting for 65% of the total market share. This indicates their strong presence in the industry. The remaining 35% is comprised of start-up entities, showcasing their growing presence in the global UAV propulsion system market.
Key companies profiled in this report include 3W International GmbH , BRP-Rotax GmbH & Co KG, Diamond Aircraft Industries (Austro Engine), Gemini Diesel (Superior Aviation Group), HIRTH ENGINES GMBH, Rotron Power Ltd., Suter Industries AG, UAV Engines Ltd., Advanced Innovative Engineering Ltd. , Pratt & Whitney Inc. (Part of Raytheon Technologies), Avio Aero (GE Aviation), Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC, PBS India (Part of PBS Aerospace), UAV Turbines Inc. (Subsidiary of Locust USA Inc.).
Recent Industry Developments
In November 2022, PBS INDIA unveiled its plans to introduce the PBS TJ200 turbojet engine in 2023. The company announced that the PBS TJ200, currently in the final stages of development, is primarily designed as a propulsion system for modern UAV and UCAV systems. This compact engine features a simple design, fuel lubrication, a BLDC starter-generator, an electric metering fuel pump, and a FADEC-type electronic control system.
In October 2022, BRP-Rotax GmbH & Co KG declared that it had halted the delivery of aircraft engines to countries with unclear usage following reports indicating that some of these engines were being employed in Turkish combat drones deployed by Azerbaijan during the conflict against Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh. It was emphasized that Rotax aircraft engines are exclusively manufactured, designed, and certified for civil use by the relevant civil regulatory authority.
In July 2022, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) successfully conducted tests on a PT6 E-Series model turboprop engine provided by Pratt & Whitney Canada. The tests were performed on GA-ASI’s MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) at the Desert Horizon flight operations facility in El Mirage, California on July 29, 2022. GA-ASI stated that the PT6 E-Series is a dependable and versatile turboprop engine family specifically engineered to meet the performance requirements of the MQ-9B as it continues to enhance its capabilities.
In April 2022, Suter Industries announced that Volansi had selected their Suter TOA288 24hp UAV engine to power their VOLY M20 and VOLY 50 Series Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) drones. Volansi, a key player in aerial drone logistics services for defense, commercial, and humanitarian sectors, designs VTOL aircrafts with extended endurance, heavy payload capacities, and the capability to operate in challenging environments. This partnership allows Volansi to provide surveillance capabilities as well as deliver crucial parts and supplies to field locations.
Key Questions Answered
What are the prevailing trends in the global market for UAV propulsion systems, and how is the market anticipated to evolve during the forecast period from 2023 to 2033?
What are the primary drivers and challenges faced by manufacturers of UAV propulsion systems operating in the worldwide UAV propulsion system market?
What will be the growth trajectory of the market during the forecast period from 2023 to 2033?
What are the existing and emerging opportunities for expanding businesses in the global UAV propulsion system market?
What are some of the key business and corporate strategies employed by major market players to thrive in a fiercely competitive environment?
Which region is expected to exert dominance over the global UAV propulsion system market by 2033 in terms of overall market performance, application-specific prominence, and product-level dominance?